As computer technology develops, more and more performance can be done on a low budget. Therefore, the cost of building a simple recording studio at home around your computer is now inexpensive. Learning to make an inexpensive recording studio at home requires an accurate assessment of the purpose of the studio being created and the sound quality required. The guide below outlines what to look for in each piece of equipment.
Step 1. Buy a computer
If you don't have a computer to use as a record manager, you will need to purchase one. Important considerations are processing speed and memory space, as recording software tends to use computer resources heavily. Both Windows and Mac work fine; but generally Windows machines allow sound card upgrades. Factory-installed sound cards are generally not powerful enough to produce high-quality recordings, so upgrading is a good idea.
Step 2. Choose a recording software
This software serves as an interface where you can manage recordings on your computer. There are several choices of devices at low prices. Generally, more expensive applications offer greater functionality and flexibility.
- For recording on a small budget, you can use licensed software such as freeware or shareware. Audacity and GarageBand are 2 popular choices for low-budget recording.
- For a slightly higher budget, you can purchase near-professional quality recording software such as Ableton Live or Cakewalk Sonar. Both of these apps are also available in entry-level versions which are cheaper but less sophisticated.
Step 3. Purchase and install an audio interface
An audio interface is a piece of hardware that replaces your computer's sound card and allows you to connect equipment and microphones to your computer via a mixer. On a PC, you must install the audio interface in the empty PCI slot. On a Mac, you may need to purchase an interface that can be connected via a USB cable or FireWire.
- At the very least, make sure your audio interface has 2 input ports and 2 output ports. This allows you to record in stereo mode. For greater flexibility, choose an interface with 4 input holes.
- One of the largest manufacturers of audio interfaces for home use is M-Audio. They produce starter models as well as advanced models.
Step 4. Purchase an audio mixer
A mixer is an essential piece of equipment for a home recording studio. The mixer handles all inputs (such as microphone, guitar, and keyboard), allows you to adjust the settings for each input, and directs the output to the audio interface and then to your computer.
- The basic functions of an inexpensive mixer are generally good enough for home recording needs. At a minimum, make sure each channel on your mixer includes adjustments for panning, volume, and 3-band equalization. Four channels is more than enough for home recording.
- Popular starter mixer brands include Behringer, Alesis, and Yamaha.
Step 5. Choose studio monitors and headphones for your studio
The speakers used to listen to your mix during editing are called studio monitors (sometimes referred to as reference speakers). Studio monitors differ from other loudspeakers in that they aim to deliver a completely flat frequency response. This means you hear the recording exactly as the digital version does, with no frequency adjustments.
- When choosing a studio monitor, be sure to look for a model that is close to a magnetic field. These models are designed to be heard from a distance of about 1 meter, thereby eliminating all effects caused by the acoustic properties of the room.
- Studio monitors can be purchased second hand from online stores or audio stores. The speaker's simple and robust construction makes it an ideal component to buy second hand and save money.
- In addition to or instead of a monitor, you can purchase a set of earphones. The advantages of earbuds are that they are cheaper, smaller, and less annoying to neighbors or housemates. The earbuds can be used in conjunction with a studio monitor to measure the very low-volume components of your recordings.
Step 6. Decide which microphone to use in your studio
An inexpensive home recording studio can be managed with just one microphone, if necessary.
- If you only buy 1 mic, be sure to choose a dynamic mic. This type of construction is more robust and versatile, as well as self-supporting. The industry standard dynamic microphone is the Shure SM-57, which can be used for vocals and musical instruments.
- If you need to record an expressive or very quiet instrument, such as a guitar or acoustic piano, a condenser microphone will give you better results. Condenser microphones are not as powerful or versatile as dynamic microphones, but provide a more sensitive response. An inexpensive recording studio can run using only 1 dynamic microphone and 1 condenser microphone.
- Building an inexpensive recording studio often means building from what you already have. Using existing components such as microphones and computers, even if they are not ideally suited to your needs, will reduce your budget.
- Additional equipment may be required depending on your recording needs. If you are interested in using a "soft-synth" instrument as well as your recording software, for example, you will need a MIDI interface and a keyboard.
- If you don't have recording equipment, you can look for the following assemblies which are reasonably priced but efficient:
- Apple Mac Mini
- 2.3GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7 (Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz) with 6MB L3 cache
- 1TB (5400-rpm) hard drive
- Intel HD Graphics 4000
- DDR3 RAM 4GB (two 2GB) 1600MHz
- M Audio Studiophile AV 30
- Audio Interface Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB 2.0
- Samson C01 Large Diaphragm Condenser
- Reference Headphones Samson RH300/Samson SR850/ Audio Technica ATH M30 or JVC Harx 700